t h e d e e p
12th July 2013
The Sea. And a Large Man
10th July 2013
Feats of survival are always impressive. Especially to those of us that count a feat of survival as anything worse than minor delays on the Northern Line. One way or another though they tend to make heroes out of the survivor. This is very definitely not the case with The Deep.
The movie tells the not so fishy (based on a true) tale of trawlerman Gulli who, ditched in the drink when his captain’s boat snags a net on some rocks, somehow manages to survive for six hours, swimming three miles in the pitch dark and then traversing some of the most painful terrain in the world barefoot. He is then feted by the scientific community as, were it not for locating the wreck, they wouldn't believe he survived that long. Normally people are expected to last around twenty minutes in water that is barely above freezing.
Ólafur Darri Ólafsson is the man tasked with portraying this amazing man and I think it may be a failing in the film that he portrays him so accurately. You see, Gulli is the very opposite of a leading man. Introverted, stolid, reliable and softly spoken, he’s instantly likable but not exactly brimming with personality. From the brief clips at the end of the movie of the man himself being interviewed, I’d say that Ólafsson does a magnificent job of portraying him.
The film excels at demonstrating the utter insignificance of one man in the North Atlantic and the fragility of life in such conditions. Gulli’s crew mates last fleeting moments once on the water and it really does demonstrate how spectacularly unlikely his survival was. At one point, the camera pans back from Gulli swimming seemingly to nowhere and we get a view of a dot of a man utterly surrounded by angry black sea. Even when he reaches land, he’s not dragging himself gratefully up on to a beach, Gulli is slammed into lethal volcanic rocks as he tries desperately to extricate himself from the unforgiving sea. Once on land, he is faced with miles of solidified lava which he must cross barefoot. If you’ve ever set foot on a lava field, you’ll appreciate just how agonizing this must have been.
Once back in the village though, the film struggles to find direction. It’s strongest when it is portraying Gulli struggling to come to terms with his survival but I don’t think it really spends enough time on this. It’s heartwarming to see him sat at the kitchen table with his milk in a glass (a desperate promise to the almighty seagull that followed him while he was swimming) but I wanted to see more of him dealing with these kinds of things. Once he is whisked off to the various scientific tests you realize that you’re not going to get to know him any more than you do already. He is such a closed book, despite the old cine-film style flashbacks to his stolid attitude as a youngster.
The movie commendably steers clear of sentimentality, Gulli’s lot is no different at the end of the film than it was at the start. In fact, we close with him heading back out to sea once more. I enjoyed The Deep, it’s portrayal of the utter brutality of nature is awesome and as mentioned above, the central performance is spot on. But it struggles to get you to engage with the central character and I came out feeling disappointed that I didn’t get to know Gulli better.
Check out the trailer for The Deep here.